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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 October 2005, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
Zoologist studies 'big cat' print
Paw print cast
The paw print cast which has been given to an expert to study
A big cat expert is studying a paw print cast taken in Fife in an attempt to identify "the Beast of Balbirnie".

It follows what have been considered credible sightings by members of the public in Balbirnie Woods, Markinch.

A large pawprint measuring 10cm x 9cm and thought to be from a cat-like creature was found during a search.

The print has been now been given to a zoologist. Police believe the most likely species to be living in the Fife area is a lynx or puma.

Fife Constabulary officers and staff from the SSPCA and other agencies took part in the recent search of the woods.

We have a duty to protect the public from what could, potentially, be a dangerous animal
Pc Mark Maylin
Wildlife officer

The introduction of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act in 1976 made it illegal for people to keep big cats and it is thought some were released into the wild.

Fife wildlife officer Pc Mark Maylin said: "We have a duty to protect the public from what could, potentially, be a dangerous animal.

Survival instincts

"The next step is to try to find and capture the animal and have it relocated in an environment that is safer, both for it and the public."

Based on the number of reports over recent years there could be as many as half a dozen big cats in Fife alone.

Lynx
The lynx was originally native to Scotland

"There are a great many sceptics out there, but how many of them have ever seen an eagle, an otter, pine martin, dolphin, whale or even a badger in the wild?

"The lynx was originally native to Scotland and would have no trouble adapting to survive in the wild."

The advice on seeing a big cat in the open is to stay calm and still, do not chase it and do not run away from it.

The only real danger would be from an encounter with an animal which had cubs, was injured or in a confined space.

The advice then is to back away slowly and try to make yourself look as large as possible.




SEE ALSO:
South West 'is big cat hotspot'
20 Apr 04 |  Cornwall
Sheep painted to deter 'panther'
11 Dec 03 |  Scotland
Big cat concerns continue
17 Nov 03 |  Northern Ireland


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